I’ve heard someone say that to know oneself is the beginning of enlightenment. And that a way to know thyself is to make a list of all one’s faults, weaknesses, and despicable character traits . What? I had never heard this before and I didn’t like the idea very much. I’d spent years transforming negative self beliefs into positive ones. Plus I thought, I don’t really have many bad traits. I’m a good person. Still the idea intrigued me. How would listing my negative qualities be a good thing? Wouldn’t it just make me feel bad about myself? Why would I want to focus on bad character traits. Wouldn’t that just be a step backwards? Negative thinking isn’t good. A Spiritual life is all about being positive. Right? Plus, I say self-assuredly, I’ve worked on self improvement my entire life, I just don’t think it would be helpful. There really is no need for me to do this exercise. I think I know myself pretty well.
While thinking how this could supposedly elevate my awareness, I felt a high level of apprehension. What am I afraid of ? Am I afraid to find an ugly self that I’m hiding from the world? No worse than that. What am I hiding from myself.? Do I really want to write stuff down on paper, in black and white, out in the open ? No, but I decided to do it anyway.
I sat with pen and paper for several minutes and absolutely nothing came to mind. Who am I? Really? What things are bad about my character? Nothing comes to mind. So I sit in silence posed to write but nothing comes. I realize after a bit, I don’t think I want to know. My hand writes down the word shallow. Ouch ! Am I shallow? Me? Yes you are shallow in some ways my dear, says my inner self. I never think of myself as shallow! So I began reflecting on that one thing, trying to understand it more clearly. Shallow can present in many ways I was soon to see. As I did this, plenty of other things came popping into my mind . Self righteousness, pettiness, distain, bitterness, falseness. Stop! that’s enough I tell myself. I was shocked to be suddenly aware of so many things that I was so unaware of about myself.
How am I self righteous ? How am I false? Feverishly I wrote and the words just poured forth. Several pages. Not pretty. Kind of painful . For example, I don’t always listen because I think I already know. I think I know better and I pretend to listen. Pretense… the opposite of authenticity. Wow! I am a fake . Am I really a fake? Yes in some ways I am. This is hard to swallow. Do others see me as I’m beginning to see myself? Oh gosh I hope not! but I kind of think they do and my heart sinks.
Days went by. Adding to the list , understanding the list, I spent the next couple weeks journaling through all the items that I now call My Ugly Truth .
What followed was a state of humble self awareness with a dash of self loathing Strangely it gave me peace. A deeper sense of acceptance. Things just seemed easier. Like I had laid a burden down. It was like I exercised a muscle to see my own truth and increased my ability to just see truth. To accept it in myself and accept it in others. I did not expect to feel so much better! To see all sides of myself was truly wonderful. By acknowledging and accepting the dark aspects of my nature I was accepting myself on a very deep level. This self acceptance was self love at its best. Its very self empowering to be aware of the choice. No longer a victim of having no choice but to be positive all the time, no choice but to see the good in people, no choice but to overcome evil with good . I see who I am. I can choose how I want to be. I can feel what I need to feel. I discovered that peeping into the dark parts of me is where the wisdom hides. I desire to choose what is for my highest good but knowing I have other choices makes me feel good about my good choice. And maybe continued self observation will aid me on the path to enlightenment. If nothing else it feels good to be me. The good, the bad, and the ugly beautiful me.